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And this is why Team USA won’t ever win a WBC

Mar 8, 2013, 11:35 PM EDT

J.P. Arencibia Getty Images

Of the 223 players with at least 350 plate appearances in 2012, J.P. Arencibia ranked 169th in wOBA. Among those players born in the United States, he’s not one of the top 100 hitters. Maybe he’s in the 100-150 range.

Yet there was Arencibia getting what may well have been the biggest at-bat for Joe Torre’s team in Friday’s game against Mexico. Team USA was down 5-1 with two on and none out in the bottom of the fifth. A right-hander was on the mound for Mexico. Arencibia is right-handed.

The U.S. is carrying three catchers. Joe Mauer was DHing, but there was little danger in batting for Arencibia and putting in Jonathan Lucroy afterwards. That would actually be an upgrade. Lucroy is a better player than Arencibia.

Of course, Buster Posey and Matt Wieters are also better players than Arencibia. They’re not here. A.J. Pierzynski, Alex Avila and John Jaso are better players than Arencibia. I’d probably argue for Chris Iannetta, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Ellis, too.

Which is why Team USA is never going to win the World Baseball Classic as its presently constructed. It’s not just that many of the country’s best players don’t want to play. It’s that those in charge do a lousy job of picking the players that do. And then it does an even worse job of employing the players who are picked.

Gio Gonzalez is Team USA’s second best pitcher. He’s not even going to be used in Round 1, since it’s such a given that the team is going to advance to Round 2 (except that’s hardly the case). Eric Hosmer, starting for the ailing Mark Teixeira, is the wrong fallback to the wrong choice to play first base in the first place. Don’t even get me started on Heath Bell.

Willie Bloomquist was on the provisional roster, for crying out loud.

And there was Arencibia. He’s not one of the United States’ five-best catchers. It’s arguable whether he’s in the top 10. Yet there he was starting against Pool D’s toughest opponent in Friday’s opener. Because he’s handled a couple R.A. Dickey bullpen sessions. And then he was left in to take a crucial at-bat in the fifth, even though Dickey had already been pulled.

As I’m writing this, Team USA is still in the game against Mexico. Maybe it will come back. Maybe it will still advance to Round 2.

But winning the tournament? That’s not happening. Team USA wasn’t designed with any thoughts of winning the World Baseball Classic. It’s just there to get taken down by a more interested team.

  1. Stiller43 - Mar 8, 2013 at 11:46 PM

    None of the best players play. Its clear nobody cares about winning it

    • captainwisdom88 - Mar 9, 2013 at 3:21 AM

      the best players r more concerned w their million dollar contracts on their mlb teams rather than risking injury to play for their country. and frankly, their teams are more concerned with that as well.

      MOST mlb teams dont want their big time guys risking injury in the WBC. everyone is looking out for their money

      • paperlions - Mar 9, 2013 at 8:30 AM

        For their country? Seriously?

        This is a tournament organized by MLB for PROFIT and they want players to play for free….and you are judging players about their priorities?

        The WBC has nothing to do with patriotism and everything to do with advertising baseball to the world for the benefit of MLB. That is the entire premise of the enterprise and the reason MLB created it.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 9, 2013 at 10:17 AM

        GOOOD BLESS AMERICAAAAA/LAND THAT I LOOOOOVE/STAND BESIDE HER AND GUIDE HER/THROUGH THE NIGHT/WITH A LIGHT FROM ABOVE

        FROM THE MOUNTAINS/TO THE PRAIRIES/TO THE OCEANS/BLACK WITH OOOOOOIIIIIILLLL/GOOOOD BLESS AMERICAAAAA/MY HOME SWEET HOOOOOOOME

        GOD BLESS AMERICAAAAA/MY HOOOOOME SWEET HOOOOOOOME

        freaking Taliban

      • bostonfreeparty - Mar 9, 2013 at 10:43 AM

        I agree, MLB is doing this only to benefit themselves. Until the Olympic Committee puts baseball back in the games and MLB allows its players in, the whole patriotism angle is crackpot.

        If the NBA and NHL can pause their season for 2 weeks of Olympic play, baseball can to. If that means cutting out 2 weeks of games, so be it. Does the sport really need to play 162 games?

      • Kevin S. - Mar 9, 2013 at 11:10 AM

        The NBA does not pause their season, international tournaments take place during their offseason. And does hockey actually pause their season for the Olympics, or have they just happened to be locked out the last couple of times? It’s hard to tell, really.

      • bostonfreeparty - Mar 9, 2013 at 11:23 AM

        Sarcasm aside, the NHL does in fact pause its season every four years for the Winter Games. My bad on the NBA, the Summer Games are two months into their offseason. The NBA is the best example of a sport that really grew their brand globally. What was the biggest catalyst behind it? The Dream Team. Put MLB players in the Olympics, the best players would want to play for gold.

    • Francisco (FC) - Mar 9, 2013 at 8:41 AM

      The Dominicans seem to care a lot, that lineup is loaded with talent. It contradicts the Cole Hamels article about players not caring about the WBC. Venezuela ditto, Mexico ditto. I think only US MLB players don’t care.

      • paperlions - Mar 9, 2013 at 8:51 AM

        Those countries also seem to be a better job of picking players. There are plenty of US players that have said they are willing to play that are better than guys on the roster. Hosmer? Really? He’s the best US 1B they could find? No Craig or LaRoche or Fielder? I realize Fielder said he would probably have declined, but they never even asked him.

        ….and Matthew is right, having Arrencibbia on the roster at all is a joke, he’s a below average MLB catcher in pretty much every aspect of the game….having him start is just a farce, especially with Lucroy on the roster.

        …and how in the hell do you pick Joe Torre to manage the team? He’s been successful in exactly one managing gig….the one in which he had the best players and highest payroll so his decision making didn’t matter. When every game counts, why do you put a guy on the bench that seems to be asleep most of the time and only realizes he should have made a move after it is too late (if even then)?

      • Francisco (FC) - Mar 9, 2013 at 8:54 AM

        I would like to see Joe Maddon in charge.

      • paperlions - Mar 9, 2013 at 9:20 AM

        Yeah, probably hard to get an active manager/coach to do it though….but Torre? Ugh.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 9, 2013 at 10:21 AM

        I think it’s interesting that Verlander said he was interested in playing but didn’t. Meanwhile, other Tigers like Miggy and Dotel are playing. There may be team pressure not to participate, but that doesn’t seem to dissuade some players. So, yeah, it suggests that US-born MLB players don’t care.

      • abaird2012 - Mar 9, 2013 at 11:35 AM

        Bobby V!

      • jwbiii - Mar 9, 2013 at 11:43 AM

        abaird, I thought of that, too. They’re basically restricted to ex-MLB managers like Torre and Valentine. It would be a fun experiment to see if Bobby Valentine could destroy a team in only a month. Bobby Cox might have been a good choice.

      • proudlycanadian - Mar 9, 2013 at 12:58 PM

        Arencibia was on the roster to catch for Dickey as the the 2 Nashville residents had practiced together in the off season. Do not blame Arencibia. It was Dickey who is having a poor spring and gave up the early runs that put the US in the hole.

  2. greej1938l - Mar 8, 2013 at 11:55 PM

    Have some faith man….come on…..I know we dont have the greatest talent….but man…… just a low low article..

    • cosanostra71 - Mar 9, 2013 at 2:20 AM

      It’s not a “low” article by any means… but I agree, it’s still early, the US could still pull it off.

  3. jgarcia050 - Mar 9, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    just cause usa has arancebia at C doesnt mean they cant win..the rest of the lineup is stacked and we had a cy young award winner on the mound..dont make excuses..no USA doesnt have the best players they could on the team, but there is a hell of a lot of talent…they have much more talent then mexico..we’re just getting beat..deal with it

    • dwrek5 - Mar 9, 2013 at 1:10 AM

      I agree. US may not have their best players, but they have a heck of a lot more talent Mexico. Luis Cruz is their 2nd best hitter. No excuses, look at what Netherlands and Italy are doing.
      But its just 1 game, not over reacting. Yet…

  4. kane337 - Mar 9, 2013 at 12:01 AM

    The best player’s are playing for the other countries. Why can’t the USA recruit its best?

  5. ndnut - Mar 9, 2013 at 12:05 AM

    Possible parallel with Olympic hockey (Miracle on Ice)??????

    • jwbiii - Mar 9, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      That was a little different. The NHL was recognized as the only “professional” hockey league in the world, so the US and Canada were unable to send their best players. The Soviets were able so send players from the Soviet Championship League and they dominated international hockey competition for decades. I’m sure that Wayne Gretzky would have liked to compete for a gold medal as much as Viacheslav Fetisov (or Вячеслав Фетисов, если предпочитаете), but he wasn’t allowed to.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 9, 2013 at 2:17 PM

        Russian Day was yesterday.

      • jwbiii - Mar 9, 2013 at 2:31 PM

        Sorry. Withdrawals.

      • tcclark - Mar 9, 2013 at 2:46 PM

        While that may have hurt Canada a bit (although not much since their NHL all-star teams were consistently embarrassed by the Soviet National Team), that wasn’t the reason America was an underdog in the Olympics. Hockey wasn’t a popular sport to play in America at the time. The best American players at the time were guys like Peter McNab, Reed Larson, and Paul Holmgren. Easily the Best American NHL player was Mark Howe, but by 1980 the last country he had represented in international play was Canada in the 74 Summit Series. Outside of those players, arguably the best american players were already on the American Roster. Guys like Dave Christian, Dave Silk, and Mark Johnson were some of the best of the best for America, but they were nothing compared to the players the Soviets boasted.

        With all that being said, this is still nothing like the Miracle on Ice. To even compare this WBC team to that hockey team is an embarrassment to all that that hockey team accomplished. This baseball team has 3 former MVPs and a Cy Young award winner and they’re playing in a meaningless tournament against very beatable opponents.

      • indaburg - Mar 9, 2013 at 2:50 PM

        Каждый день-день России, товарищ. где это водка?

      • historiophiliac - Mar 9, 2013 at 3:26 PM

        бооооо!

      • jwbiii - Mar 9, 2013 at 3:35 PM

        Извини дорогая. Только пиво здесь.

      • jwbiii - Mar 9, 2013 at 3:45 PM

        Hy что, у меня водка и сок ананаса!

        Honestly, I had no idea what the word for pineapple was.

  6. bjbeliever - Mar 9, 2013 at 12:24 AM

    Gee tell us what you really think of Arencibia…

  7. fearthehoody - Mar 9, 2013 at 12:38 AM

    I have tix to Saturday & Sunday’s USA games and I truly do not care about the games. The players dont care, so im going to drink beer and hop around game to game and have a good b day weekend.

  8. Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Mar 9, 2013 at 1:04 AM

    Would rather watch Team USA get their ass kicked than watch someone like Justin Verlander sit on the bench during the actual baseball season after injuring themselves in a glorified exhibition. No offense to international baseball (going on a stadium tour of Japan is one of my life goals) but the regular season and World Series easily trump the WBC in importance, and I want the best players in the world playing in the most important games.

    (For the record if, as some people suggested, MLB adjust their schedule every 4 years to allow for a proper tournament, I might whistle a different tune.)

    • Francisco (FC) - Mar 9, 2013 at 8:46 AM

      Yeah heaven forbid someone injures themselves by say… Breaking a forearm on a freak at bat. Seriously that argument is a bunch of BS, I think the rate of injuries in the WBC and ST are comparable. But I agree that if MLB is serious about the WBC they should schedule it in the middle of summer and bite the bullet and take two or three weeks from the MLB schedule to make it happen.

  9. hushbrother - Mar 9, 2013 at 1:08 AM

    It’s a waste of time. A tournament that has twice had as its MVP Daisuke Matsuzaka cannot be considered anything but completely farcical.

    • jayquintana - Mar 9, 2013 at 1:44 AM

      I’ve been enjoying the WBC games, but… you make a heckuva point!

    • welovemarines - Mar 9, 2013 at 2:07 AM

      I love how the Team USA “fans” criticize the countries who actually send their best players to the tournament. Matsuzaka was a hell of a pitcher at one time.

      You think USA has better pitchers who can beat the international teams? Then do it. Send the best USA players out there. See how they stack up.

      Talk is so very cheap.

    • paperlions - Mar 9, 2013 at 8:39 AM

      Besides the fact that Matsuzaka was a very good pitcher at one point, it is far easier to be effective when your opponents have had limited exposure to you, especially if you have a funky delivery that messes with a batter’s timing or how he picks the ball up. In these situations, deception can be more important than stuff….put that same guy in MLB for a couple of seasons so that players have a chance to adjust to him, and he may get crushed once the deception isn’t working.

      • abaird2012 - Mar 9, 2013 at 11:39 AM

        That’s pretty much what happened, isn’t it?

  10. thebadguyswon - Mar 9, 2013 at 1:11 AM

    Who cares? And never is way too strong anyway.

  11. PhillyPhanAnalysis - Mar 9, 2013 at 1:23 AM

    It’s not just the fact that we aren’t putting the absolute best team of American players possible. I think just as important as that is the timing. When some of the other teams are quite literally in mid season form, and all our guys are still in the first half of spring training before they depart, the difference is obvious. Just look at Dickey’s knuckleball. It wasn’t nearly as consistent as it was during the regular season last year. He got shelled, and that was that since we couldn’t string good at-bats together.

    As long as the timing stays the same, it will be real tough for the US to win it. I do believe the players are giving it 100%, but their 100% at this point in the year just isn’t good enough against guys that have been competing for months.

    • Francisco (FC) - Mar 9, 2013 at 8:50 AM

      In this case hitting probably trumps pitching, but even that isn’t a very good excuse I believe Japan’s season is similar to MLB? And most Dominican and Venezuelan participants are MLB as well.

      Even if the US fielded the best team they could they would be subject to tournament roulette since one or two bad days and it’s over. Unlike a regular season where a team can have a bad streak of 5 or 6 games and recover, you can’t recover here at all.

    • jwbiii - Mar 9, 2013 at 11:27 AM

      Who’s in mid-season form? The Australian League ended a month ago, but their team went 0-3 and may finish dead last in the tournament.

      • PhillyPhanAnalysis - Mar 9, 2013 at 2:15 PM

        I know that Cuba is in midseason. It is mostly all the Caribbean teams. They have the luxury of competitive baseball year round, with all the fall and winter leagues. Not to mention the Caribbean World Series just ended not too long ago.

        Yeah, the asian teams are all similar to MLB, but they also care so much more as a culture that they not only know what their team will be ahead of time, but I would imagine they are practicing well before the American’s even know who is gonna be on the team. It certainly makes a difference.

        I just had a thought though. Maybe I am way off base here, but maybe this is exactly what the MLB wants…

        Think about it, if the US was winning every year, it might actually hurt the popularity around the world. With other countries winning every 3 years, maybe that lights a fire under some of the young players around the world because they want their chance to beat the big, bad Americans. haha

        Like I said, maybe I am way off base, but I wouldn’t put it past them either.

      • jwbiii - Mar 9, 2013 at 3:23 PM

        Dominican Winter League regular season ended 12/21/2012
        Mexican Pacific League regular season ended 12/30/2012
        Puerto Rican League regular season ended 12/30/2012
        Venezuelan Winter League regular season ended 12/30/2012
        Cuban Serie Nacional season ended 1/31/2013
        Caribbean Series ended 2/7/2013 (Obregon(Mex), Escogido (DR), Caguas (PR), Magallenas(Ven))
        Australian Baseball League championship series ended 2/10/2013

  12. louhudson23 - Mar 9, 2013 at 4:22 AM

    Many of the best MLB players are in the WBC. They just aren’t playing for the USA. Clearly,the idea that it is the teams restricting their players is bogus.So stop saying it and writing it. It is obviously not the case and a false narrative.While there are genuine health concerns for certain players,most U.S. players just cant be bothered. Competition is competition.Baseball is baseball. Get your slack asses out there and show what you got. The idea that International competition is going to go away is ludicrous. We will only see an expansion of it and one day,in the not too distant future,you won’t be able to say “World Champion” without actually being “World” Champion…

  13. BigBeachBall - Mar 9, 2013 at 5:49 AM

    The world cup was once a small insignificant tournament…

    • paperlions - Mar 9, 2013 at 8:42 AM

      …but even at that point in time soccer was a global sport, not a sport popular in about a dozen countries….but baseball is growing…so, your point may be correct, the WBC may just be a little premature. After all, the first world cup had only 4 teams in it….can we dig up some media coverage to see if fans/media made fun of it for poor attendance and participation?

      • historiophiliac - Mar 9, 2013 at 10:24 AM

        Ok, get on that and get back to us.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 9, 2013 at 11:55 AM

        can we dig up some media coverage to see if fans/media made fun of it for poor attendance and participation?

        The first WC had over 90,000 people show up, in Montevideo Uruguay.

      • paperlions - Mar 9, 2013 at 12:02 PM

        For 1930, that is pretty impressive…..especially considering that 40 years before soccer wasn’t a particularly well known or popular sport outside of the the British Isles.

  14. humanexcrement - Mar 9, 2013 at 6:03 AM

    The first two WBC tournaments were a hell of a lot of fun. If you’re watching, this one sort of is too. But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this is the last WBC we ever see. It seemed this time around that every time I logged on to this website, I saw “Superstar X will not play in WBC” or stories about empty stands and disinterested fans. I really hope it works out better in four years, but right now it isn’t looking good.

  15. ET Sport - Mar 9, 2013 at 7:41 AM

    L’ha ribloggato su ET Sportse ha commentato:
    Certo non può che essere così, se non giocano i migliori.

  16. deadrabbit79 - Mar 9, 2013 at 8:08 AM

    To the person who wrote this: “Possible parallel with Olympic hockey (Miracle on Ice)??????” I really hope you were joking, that is possibly one of the top 5 moments in sports history.

  17. chill1184 - Mar 9, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    Personally it doesn’t really bother me. I like watching the tournament because I love baseball

  18. ndnut - Mar 9, 2013 at 8:37 AM

    I respect that it is an amazing moment, but my suggestion is that American amateurs or minor leaguers could start playing and end up winning, just like hockey.

  19. jaybird22seven - Mar 9, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    What a poor article. Not really worth reading. Why not post about another player being in the best shape of his life!!!
    Yawn!!!

  20. phillyfanmatt - Mar 9, 2013 at 9:00 AM

    It’s not that the best players don’t care about playing in this tournament. It’s that some of the best American players don’t care about playing in this tournament.

  21. mclovinhockey - Mar 9, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    As someone who barley watches baseball, I only have heard of like 3 players in that article. Which means none of the good players care. This is not like the Olympics for hockey where all player want in, or even the world JRs. USA baseball players do not take pride in their country’s baseball.
    Most my non sports watching friends always criticize baseball for calling the US pros league the World Series when we are not competing against the world. Here is our one chance to show that the US is better than the world in Baseball and no one shows up.
    Some of these athletes are paid more in a year than entire NHL teams for hitting a ball and running around. These players worry more about money than pride. It’s sad.

  22. dirtydrew - Mar 9, 2013 at 10:08 AM

    I’m sorry, but R.A. dickey blows. I don’t view a knuckle baller as legit pitcher. We ought to be throwing out Matt Cain, Verlander, Kershaw. The best. American players should be playing for America. That is the real problem. We have guys who are from the U.S. playing for other countries. Making Italy, Mexico and the Netherlands better than they really are. FANS, if you want this lame money grab to end, don’t watch. It is made for TV. Not to mention that they want the US to loose. We trotted out Dickey, and Torre is an overrated manager.

    • misterchainbluelightning - Mar 9, 2013 at 11:45 AM

      I’m sorry, this ^ is ignorant as it gets

  23. misterchainbluelightning - Mar 9, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    “Never” poor choice of words, people said that in the 1980 Olympic hockey system Team USA could “never” win Gold in 1980.
    It’s a small tourney and anything could happen in those.
    And it was less likely that the US would win gold in 1980 in hockey than US winning a WBC, but it happened.

    Think twice before using the word “ever or never”

  24. jdouble777 - Mar 9, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    This article is our chance. If Miggy, Reyes, Hanley, A Gon, etc are playing then there is absolutely no excuse. Our players are disrespecting our nation and us…the fans who hold great pride in OUR pastime. There is not a single sliver of rationale that would justify Verlander not being on that mound, or Kershaw, Sabathia, Hamels, Weaver, Price, Grienke, etc. Dickey is a unique talent that requires uncanny touch to be effective, which is absolutely unreal when locked in, but to expect that right now is pathetically illogical.

    We need to stand up and with a unified war cry proclaim that it is their duty to represent us. If you care, let your voice be heard, demand change, leave the cynicism of this article for the pundits.

  25. kw27p - Mar 9, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    Lets face it, baseball players are spoiled with their guaranteed contracts. Wish it was like NFL where they could cut you and you don’t get crap.

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